Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay

Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay

Perched on a rocky islet in the midst of vast sandbanks exposed to powerful tides between Normandy and Brittany stand the 'Wonder of the West', a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey dedicated to the archangel St Michael, and the village that grew up in the shadow of its great walls. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, the abbey is a technical and artistic tour de force, having had to adapt to the problems posed by this unique natural site.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Mont-Saint-Michel et sa baie

Sur un îlot rocheux au milieu de grèves immenses soumises au va-et-vient de puissantes marées, à la limite entre la Normandie et la Bretagne, s'élèvent la « merveille de l'Occident », abbaye bénédictine de style gothique dédiée à l'archange saint Michel, et le village né à l'abri de ses murailles. La construction de l'abbaye, qui s'est poursuivie du XIe au XVIe siècle, en s'adaptant à un site naturel très difficile, a été un tour de force technique et artistique.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

جبل سان ميشال وخليجه

تقع روعةُ الغرب على جزيرة صخرية وسط سواحل رملية هائلة تخضع لحركات مَدّ وجزر قوية على الحدود بين منطقة النورماندي ومنطقة بريطانيا في فرنسا، وهي كناية عن دير تابع للرهبان البندكتيين على شكل قوس قوطيّ مكرّس لرئيس الملائكة القديس ميخائيل، الى جانب القرية التي رأت النور بعيداً عن أسوارها. وقد شكّل بناء الدير الذي استمرّ من القرن الحادي عشر حتى القرن السادس عشر تجربةً تقنية وفنية تتطلّب العناء والقوة متكيّفاً مع موقع طبيعي في غاية الصعوبة.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0



source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Ансамбль Мон-Сен-Мишель с заливом

Посвященный архангелу Михаилу Бенедиктинский монастырь в готическом стиле и поселение, выросшее у подножья его огромных стен, называют «Чудом Запада». Оно расположено между Нормандией и Бретанью на скалистом полуострове-утесе, который превращается в остров во время сильных приливов. Монастырь, построенный в период XI-XVI вв. в сложнейших природных условиях, признан художественным и инженерным шедевром.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

El Monte Saint Michel y su bahía

En el confín de Normandía y Bretaña, en medio de inmensas extensiones de arena azotadas por los embates de fuertes mareas, se alzan encaramadas en un islote rocoso la abadía gótica benedictina consagrada al arcángel San Miguel y la aldea nacida al amparo de sus murallas. La construcción de esta “maravilla del Occidente” duró desde el siglo XI hasta el XVI y fue una verdadera hazaña técnica y artística.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


source: NFUAJ

Mont Saint-Michel en zijn baai

Dit ‘Wonder van het Westen’ bestaat uit een in gotische stijl gebouwde benedictijnenabdij gewijd aan de aartsengel Sint-Michaël. Het staat op een rotsachtig eilandje van 80 meter hoog – te midden van uitgestrekte zandbanken, blootgesteld aan krachtige getijden – tussen Normandië en Bretagne. De abdij – gebouwd tussen de 11e en de 16e eeuw – is een technische en artistieke ‘tour de force’, omdat men zich moest aanpassen aan de problemen die het natuurgebied met zich meebracht. Naast de abdij bestaat Mont Saint-Michel uit het dorp dat ontstond in de schaduw van de grote abdijmuren. Een dijk van 1.800 meter verbindt de rots met het vasteland.


Outstanding Universal Value
Brief description

Perched on a rocky islet in the midst of vast sandbanks exposed to powerful tides, at the limit between Normandy and Brittany, stands “Wonder of the West”, a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey dedicated to the Archangel St Michel, and the village that grew up in the shadow of its walls. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, the abbey is a technical and artistic tour de force, having had to adapt to the problems posed by this unique natural site. Thus, the practical and aesthetic solutions inscribed in the stones of the edifice are henceforth inseparable from its natural environment.

This Benedictine abbey, founded in 966, was erected on a sanctuary dedicated to the Archangel Michel since 708 and conserves some vestiges of the Romananesque period. The older part of the present abbey, the small pre-Romanesque church with a double nave, Notre-Dame-sous-terre, in granite masonry and flat bricks, dates back undoubtedly to the 10th century. The contribution of the Romanesque period is still visible in the nave of the abbey church, whose crossing is supported by the rock summit, and in a group of conventual staggered buildings (the chaplaincy or gallery of Aquilon, the covered gallery of the monks of which the vault, constructed after 1103, would be one of the earliest examples of ribbed vaulting).

But it is the masters of the Gothic period who, benefiting as best they could from the restricted area, invented the high walls, the soaring masses, the open volumes, the airy pinacles and the sharp silhouette of the rock. The new body of the conventual buildings, built from 1204, merits the name of “Merveille” (Marvel) for the elegance of its conception. Above the chaplaincy of the 12th century, it comprises the celebrated rooms known as the ‘Hôtes’ and the ‘Chevaliers’ and, on the uppermost floor, in addition to the vast body of the refectory, the cloister with colonnettes grouped in five, open on one side to the sea. Among the many later additions, mention should be made of the flamboyant choir of the abbey church, begun in 1448 to replace the Romanesque choir which had previously collapsed.

The Mont-Saint-Michel, sanctuary located in a difficult place of access, in accordance with the tradition of places of worship dedicated to Saint Michel, place of pilgrimage frequented throughout the Middle Ages, and later seat of a Benedictine abbey of strong intellectual influence, is in its most characteristic aspects, one of the most important sites of Christian civilization in the Middle Ages.

Criterion (i): Through the unique combination of the natural site and the architecture, the Mont-Saint-Michel constitutes a unique aesthetic success.

Criterion (iii): Mont-Saint-Michel is an unequalled ensemble, as much because of the co-existence of the abbey and its fortified village within the confined limits of a small island, as for the originality of the placement of the buildings which accord with its unforgettable silhouette.

Criterion (vi): Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most important sites of medieval Christian civilization.


Despite the turbulent history of the Mont and the destruction of the earlier part of the church, the integrity of the ensemble of the site and the abbey is effective. The restorations of the 19th century have given back their dignity to the buildings and their emblematic aspect, notably with the construction of the spire in 1897. The village has conserved its ancient constructions.

The values of the site have been maintained despite the silting up of the bay due to natural phenomena and especially the construction of an access causeway in 1879, that caused the Mont to lose its insular character. On completion of major work carried out by the French State in 2015, the maritime character of the Mont Saint-Michel has been reestablished.


The relation between the Mont and the vast surrounding landscape of the bay has remained intact for centuries. The buildings of the abbey and the village that surrounds it, maintained, restored or renewed accordingly since the 17th, 19th and 20th centuries, are of remarkable authenticity in their substance, their development or lay-out.

Abolished in 1789 and transformed into a prison until 1863, the abbey today is a monument that testifies to the Christian past, where the monastical presence is ensured by a small community. Its history, shared by three million visitors each year, recalls the outstanding role that it played.

The visual characteristics of the Mont, linked to its topograhy, and its status as a largely visible landmark, are very vulnerable to insertions into the landscape likely to alter the panorama from and to the property. Moreover, the high visitor frequentation risks damaging the spirit of the place.

Protection and management requirements

The ensemble of the property, built and natural, benefits from protection at the national level either under the Heritage Code or the Environment Code. The abbey, its ramparts and dependences belong to the State and have been listed as Historic Monuments since 1862. The shoreline included in the property is protected by “coastal law” and the bay has been protected since 1994 by the Ramsar Convention.

The State has entrusted the management of the abbey to the National Monuments Centre, a body under the authority of the Ministry of Culture. The abbey benefits from important and regular restoration works. Taking into account the geological nature of the site, consolidation work on the rocks is carried out periodically.

The shared governance between the State and the Mixed Syndicate of the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, set up in 2006, continues with the body called the Conference of the Bay, chaired by the Prefect of the Normandy region and the two chairpersons of the Normandy and Brittany regions.

Since the reestablishment of the maritime character of the Mont-Saint-Michel, the causeway has been replaced by a footbridge and a shuttle service ensures the transport of visitors from the locality of La Caserne to the foot of the Mont. The establishment of this facility has enabled the regulation of the tourist flow. Moreover, the hydraulic construction works such as the Couesnon dam where water releases flush the sediments offshore, combat the silting-up of the Mont.

The buffer zone, proposed in 2018, includes almost 130 communes. Its boundary was defined based on a landscape study where the Mont-Saint-Michel, the principal panoramas and the Montjoies are all visible. Furthermore, an area of influence over the landscape of the Mont-Saint-Michel has been defined, exclusive of its major installations and equipment, which completes the system. It is incorporated into planning tools such as the patterns of territorial coherence.